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Opinion | What are we even doing?

When you examine Alabama’s government, and the choices voters continue to make, it’s very hard to understand what we’re even doing

The Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery.

Every now and then, I take a hard look around our state – at our state government, at the lawmakers we’ve chosen to represent us and set our laws, at the men and women we’ve chosen to enforce the laws and punish law breakers, at the institutions that are meant to dole out justice and level the playing field for all of us. And after today’s hard look, I had just the one question. 

What are we even doing? 

In just this week’s news – and I’ll remind you that it’s only Wednesday when this column was published – we’ve counted our seventh death inside an Alabama prison, the state Supreme Court is just making up stuff as it goes along, the state’s law enforcement agency is denying basic public records and a group of inmates is suing the state for using COVID relief money to build more prisons. 

And this is a good week. 

The sad fact is we have a dysfunctional state government, and we have a dysfunctional state government because we have far too many people who don’t care at all or who only care about voting for a party. 

We have reduced the act of selecting competent leaders who might better the state to a simple selection of the person wearing the appropriate jersey and saying the correct four lines about liberals, socialism, the border or wokeness. And to make matters worse, we then have rewarded these incompetent goobers with a 90-percent-plus re-election rate if they’ll only do one or two really outlandish things to help us remember their names. 

This has led to a state government and state court system filled with men and women who you legitimately wouldn’t trust to watch your dogs for a long weekend. 

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And the horror of it all is that Alabama voters seem to be perfectly content to sit by and watch as these people gather more and more power and pass more and more laws that allow them to operate in secrecy. 

Just take the decision the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency recently made to deny ESPN police records from a car crash several years ago, in which a childhood friend of embattled football player Henry Ruggs was killed. 

It’s not an open case. It’s pretty cut and dried what happened. Yet, still, ALEA denied the request because it said the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement agencies no longer have to turn over records. 

And that’s true. The ALSC absolutely did say that. 

Which presents two problems: that the ALSC would undermine the state’s Open Records Act in such an obvious and blatant manner, and that ALEA – an entity supposedly interested in serving the public – would choose not to simply turn over records that should be public. 

Actually, I take that back, it presents a third problem as well: Voters will never hold the ALSC justices accountable for such an undermining of public interest. Because those justices are Republicans, and because ALGOP will ensure those justices face no primary challenges, and because voters would never vote for a Democrat. 

And look, I’m telling you to vote for a Democrat. I’m telling you to vote for a Competent. I don’t care which letter is beside the Competent candidate’s name. 

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Because when you don’t, you end up with Supreme Court that makes up procedure and precedent as it goes, and often undermines itself and sets about molding the laws to fit the punishment it wishes to dole out to businesses and people it doesn’t like. As it did with Greenetrack recently. 

And it’ll bend over backwards to help entities it does like – such as major donors, the political elite and any person or organization who it would be politically advantageous to help. Like, say, protecting cops from us lowly citizens being able to read through their records.

Or protecting the Alabama Department of Corrections from being forced to explain to anyone ever why such staggering numbers of people keep dying inside their prisons. 

The seventh person in just over a week died this week at Donaldson Correctional. That’s 23 this year.

That’s right. TWENTY-THREE. And it’s mid-July. 

Jefferson County Coroner Bill Yates, who seems to believe that as a public servant he should occasionally tell people facts and junk, told WBRC-6 that there doesn’t appear to be foul play in the recent deaths. However, of the previous 14, there were three homicides, two drug overdoses, a “fall” and one undetermined cause of death. 

While that all sounds normal enough, I’ll remind you that these deaths occurred inside a prison. Where incarcerated men are supposed to be locked up and monitored 24 hours per day. 

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It’s yet another failure of our ever-failing prison system. One that will not be aided by the mega-prisons we seem intent on building, despite no one ever explaining how such prisons will ultimately correct the most serious issues within our corrections system.  

And speaking of prison issues that no one ever mentions: how about that we could have avoided this entire mess if our state attorney general, who saw every federal lawsuit filed about the horrors that were occurring in those prisons on a daily basis, long before they became public fodder in the Department of Justice’s lawsuit. Steve Marshall saw every one, and he did absolutely nothing to address those horrid conditions or assist the human beings who were begging him for help. 

Because if he had done something, there would have been a press release about it. 

But see, that’s the conflict, isn’t it? What’s more advantageous for Marshall? 

Is it addressing the human rights issues taking place in Alabama prisons? Or is it pretending that our nightmare prisons are just us being “tough on crime,” and then sending out a press release about fighting “the Biden agenda”? 

In many ways, that sums up Alabama state government in 2022. A bunch of empty acts and empty suits, and so very little real substance. 

But I’ll remind you again that this is the government that Alabama voters have chosen. They don’t have to accept this incompetence. They don’t have to tolerate a government that is quite clearly not working for them. 

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But they have. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out what we’re even doing anymore.

Written By

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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